8/8/88 &c.

August 8, 1988

On this particular confluence of numbers for a date, I went to work. After all, it was also a Monday. VW started today as editorial assistant. At last we get one. After introductions and a basic editorial meeting, I spent a fair amount of the morning showing her how to use the VDT.

At 11 or so, I met a writer named SB. Seems like he could do good work for us. Works part-time now for another local mag that I’ve never heard of.

Lunch: KD, JD, VW, MS and me at Dick’s Last Resort, which opened not long ago at North Pier. I think there are others in Dallas and Houston. The place has its staff pretend to be rude. Restaurant motto: “Can’t Kill a Man Born to Hang.” Had a bucket o’ beef ribs & fries & slaw & bread. Was good.

[I checked just now, and the Dick’s Chicago location at some point moved to Marina Towers. It’s still a relatively small chain, with 13 locations, according to its web site. I went a few other times during the late ’80s, and maybe once again when I moved back to Chicago.

Dick’s used to serve — maybe still does — Mamba, pride of the Ivory Coast brewing industry. Actually a malt liquor, not a beer. Came in pint bottles with a croc and a map of Africa on the label. I bought one once just to drink something made in République de Côte d’Ivoire.

Not bad. Had the empty bottle for some years, but it disappeared at some point.]

In the afternoon, got a surprising amount done. Queried participants in the Mortgage Roundtable, interviewed an industry cockalorum, and more.  After work, had a hard time getting home. The El was jammed with Cubs fans going to the big-deal, first-ever night game at Wrigley.

Got home, a postcard was in the mail from Bill K. He says he’s in love and that “Elvis lives.” At 7:30 or so, I headed north on the El, away from all the hubbub, to go swimming. As I was walking to the pool from Davis station, it started raining hard. Got to the pool, swam. Less crowded than usual. Still raining some as I walked back to the station. Down to a drizzle by the time I got home, but I understand the big night game was called because of it.

[Sure enough, it was called. I seem to remember that Royko was there, and the next day in his column said he was tired of people telling him that God didn’t want night games at Wrigley. One was played to a conclusion the very next evening in better weather.]

Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery

Next to North Park Mall, a storied mid-century shopping center in Dallas — and one that’s still thriving — is the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. In its way, it too is still thriving.

“The cemetery was created with land donated by William Barr Caruth, an early Dallas settler whose family owned huge tracts of what is now North Dallas,” wrote Moira Muldoon in D magazine in 2010. “Sparkman Hillcrest is officially a Texas historic site now, with graves going back as far as the 1850s, and some of the wending roads through the 88 acres are lovely.”

I saw no graves as old as the 19th century at Sparkman-Hillcrest in late May, but then again I didn’t wander through every part of the cemetery. What I saw was a well-landscaped 20th-century cemetery, marked by upright stones and and a scattering of funerary art, along with many mature trees and bushes.

Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasSparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasSparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasThere’s at least one fountain.
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasA few graves featured statues, such as these two.

Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, Dallas

A few stones are unconventional. I didn’t take a picture of one that features a large cube balanced on one of its tips, but I did snap this one.
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, Dallas - King MemorialOne section used well-cropped bushes to mark off family plots. I’d never seen an arrangement quite like that.

Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasOr rounded stones quite like these either.
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasI didn’t go looking for well-known permanent residents of Sparkman-Hillcrest, but I found a few. Ross Perot’s parents, and I assume a sibling who didn’t live long, had their own section featuring a statue of an angel. Someday, presumably, the Dallas billionaire and third-party candidate will repose there as well.

Sen. John Tower, along with one of his daughters, is at Sparkman-Hillcrest.
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, DallasHe earned his place in U.S. political history by being the first Republican Senator from Texas since Reconstruction, first elected to that body in 1966. A harbinger of the end of the old-time Solid South and its evolution into the new Solid South we know today. The elder George Bush wanted him to be his Secretary of Defense in 1989, but the very same U.S. Senate said no — also a remarkable event in Tower’s career. In 1991, he and his daughter Marian and 21 others died in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines 2311 in Georgia.

Another resident of Sparkman-Hillcrest is long-time Cowboys head coach Tom Landry.
Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, Dallas

Back in 2013, I saw Landry’s cenotaph at the Texas State Cemetery, along with the grave of that other famed Texas football coach, Darrell Royal. Landry’s buried in Dallas, and his ever-present fedora, done in bronze, helps mark his final resting place.

Cricket in the Northwest ’Burbs

On Saturday as I walked the dog through the park and school grounds behind my house, I saw a group of about 15 men on the elementary school blacktop. From a distance, I thought they were playing baseball, which would be a little odd. Then again, the recent rains froze in the ground and then melted enough during the last few days to make the ground squishy, which would render the ball fields in the park a little difficult for a game.

Then I noticed they were playing cricket. A pick-up game of cricket, you could say, since the pitch was clearly improvised, and I don’t think there were enough of them to field 11 players on each team (one of the few facts that I know about cricket). (And that Don Bradman was the greatest cricket player, according to an Australian I knew who insisted on that point.)

I’d never seen anyone playing cricket in that park. Cricket pitches were common enough in places like England and Australia, built into the urban parks in those countries, and I remember wandering by such places and seeing cricket players do whatever it is they do. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play cricket in North America, though I know that people do.

For instance, Vanderbilt had a cricket team whose picture was always in the yearbook, and every jack man of them was of East Indian heritage. As were the men playing in the park on Saturday.

Medal Counts and Other Distractions

Just got around to looking at the final Olympic medal totals today, because what’s the hurry? Also, I was intrigued by a headline in The Sporting News — something I rarely look at — that said, “The biggest lie of the Rio Olympics? The medal standings, as usual.”

I started reading that article, but the page started playing a damned video ad that had no mute function. I could have shut it up by muting all the volume on my machine, but I object on principle to videos that play on web sites without being asked, especially those you can’t shut up. So I quieted the thing down by closing the page.

In any case, I’m less interested in the top nations than those who won few or zero medals. Eighty-seven teams won something, a bronze at least, out of 207 participating. Thus the clear majority of teams won nothing to hang around their necks. So it goes.

As for nations that got exactly one bronze, they’re a divers lot: Austria, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Morocco, Moldova, Nigeria, Portugal, Trinidad & Tobago, and the UAE. Countries that won one silver and nothing else included Burundi, Grenada, Niger, the Philippines and Qatar, and there were even a few countries that won a gold and nothing else: Fiji, Jordan, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, Singapore, and Tajikistan.

The Telegraph did some interesting comparisons: medals per capita and medals compared with GDP.

“Grenada is top when it comes to total medals per capita,” The Telegraph noted. “The country has only won one silver, but its small population means that it has won 9.4 medals per million population… Great Britain has achieved one medal per million people, while the USA won 0.4 medals per million and China — the world’s largest country in population — gained 0.05 medals per million.”

Compared to GDP, another small island nation comes out on top: “With its silver medal, the Bahamas comes top for medals compared to its GDP. It has won a rate of 102 medals a per $100bn GDP — despite just winning just one overall. The United States and China perform poorly when comparing their medal count to GDP, with 0.7 and 0.6 medals per $100bn of GDP respectively.”

The Telegraph is distracting. Soon I found myself not reading about the Olympics — a little of that goes a long way — and turned to the obits. Forrest Mars Jr. died this month; I’m surprised there’s enough public information about him to publish a full obit, but here it is.

Also passing this month, David Huddleston, better known as the Big Lebowski. He was definitely not the Dude.

Togo, Lesotho, Tuvalu and Other Olympic Teams

Spent some time on Friday watching the Parade of Nations. This time around, NBC didn’t seem to cut anybody out, so it was quite long, and I didn’t sit through it all. Even so, it’s the part of the Olympics I usually get around to watching. Everything else, not so much.

As usual, I’m pulling for Togo in the Games. Along with Lesotho, with their wonderful hats, and other small teams, such as Tuvalu, Bhutan, Chad, Dominica, and Equatorial Guinea, just to name a few. I’m sure the U.S. athletes will do well, and I wish them well, but any fool can get behind a large delegation.

But what about Tuvalu? Good old Tuvalu, which has sent exactly one athlete to the Games this time around, former footballer Etimoni (Reme) Timuani, who will be in the 100 m sprint. This is the third Olympics for the Pacific nation, which as yet has won no medals. Hope they win something while their country is still above sea level.

As for Togo, it’s sent five athletes to seek Olympic glory and swat mosquitoes in Rio: a couple of sprinters, a couple of swimmers, and a competitor in women’s single sculls. Does NBC pay any attention to single sculls? I suspect not so much. Why bother with someone like Gevvie Stone (who’s on Team USA just as much as a swimmer or gymnast) when you can spend hours talking about Michael Phelps?

At least NBC’s coverage of the Parade of Nations seemed to a little less annoying this year than before. The announcers’ subtext wasn’t quite so, “Golly, I don’t know where that country is! Do you? It’s so little, it’s hard to believe it’s a country. Go Team USA!”

Naturally, unheralded writers at NBC did their research, so that the announcers could tell heartwarming stores about some of the athletes. “That’s right, his family was so poor they couldn’t afford oxygen when he was growing up in such-and-such TPLAC. But he had a dream, and he began training by running up and down burning trash dumps without shoes.”

No doubt they told true stories, and I’m glad that some of the participants in the Games were able to overcome awful conditions to get there, especially the Refugee Olympic Team, which is a new thing this Olympiad. I don’t mock them. NBC, on the other hand, deserves to be mocked for the dumbed down coverage the network is sure to provide to American audiences. Am I merely being nostalgic in remember that ABC knew better how to cover the Olympics? I don’t think so. The network had better ideas about international sports coverage.

Thursday Trifles

One more picture from Navy Pier.
Navy Pier, July 30, 2016Saw about a half-dozen ASK ME sign holders on Saturday, and I did ask one which way it was to the tall ships entrance. He told me.

Oh, God, Not that!Occasionally I still flip through TV channels, just to see what I can see. A few weeks ago I was doing so, and happened to have my camera handy. Here’s something I found.

By gum, it was original cast Three’s Company. Accept no substitutes. I spent all of about a minute watching it. Enough to get the gist of that week’s comedy of errors: a holiday show that saw Jack and the girls wanting to get away from the Ropers to attend a more interesting Christmas party, while the Ropers were doing their best to bore their young guests, so they could attend a more interesting Christmas party. The same one. Har-dee-har-har.

Yep, it's thatThen I became curious about Man About the House. It occurred to me that I’d never seen it. In the age of YouTube, there’s no reason not to, so I watched Series 1, Episode 1 (since removed, but it’ll probably be back). It was no Fawlty Towers, or even Steptoe and Son, but it wasn’t that bad. It had a couple of advantages over its American counterpart, such as better comic acting, especially the part of the landlord, and no Suzanne Somers. Remarkable how much of a difference that makes. Well, not that remarkable.

Some of the Man About the House lines were so very completely, breathtakingly British. The last line of the episode, for instance. Off camera, the brunette roommate persuaded the landlord to let the male character move in, as he was on camera in the kitchen with the blonde roommate. When the male character asked her how she did that — the landlord was gone by this time — she said, “I told him you were a poof.”

An announcement on Wednesday from the IOC: “The… IOC today agreed to add baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing to the sports programme for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

What, no tug-of-war? Skateboarding, but not tug-of-war, a sport that’s easy to understand, telegenic and opens up the possibility of beach tug-of-war?

Boomers 7, Miners 5

Not long ago I realized that we hadn’t been to a minor league baseball game in a while. I wasn’t sure how long, so I checked: more than eight years. Time to go again. Same stadium, different team, since the old Flyers went under in 2011 — something about a cool million in unpaid back rent to the stadium owners, who happen to be the Village of Schaumburg and the Schaumburg Park District.

Since 2012, the Schuamburg Boomers have been the home team at the stadium, which isn’t all that far from where we live. Besides proximity, there are other advantages to attending baseball games locally, mainly cost. I’m happy to note that the price of reserved seating this year was exactly the same as it was in 2008: $11.

I can’t say the same about the Cubs. It’s a little hard to tell, since the club seems to have changed the ticket pricing scheme since eight years ago, the better maybe to put a fig leaf on their naked avarice, but I think that a ticket at a “middle distance behind home plate” — which was $66 then — no longer exists, though some far-off seats are still in the $60s. Seems that nothing behind home plate is less than $99. My opinion of MLB as a pack of gougers remains unchanged, then.

On Friday the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League — whose mascot is a Prairie Chicken — played the South Illinois Miners, first of a three-game weekend series. Another thing to like about minor-league ball is that the players commit whopping blunders sometimes, and that happened almost right away, with the Miners getting two runs in the 1st inning because of a wildly misthrown ball to first base (or rather, in the direction of first base). But during the bottom of the same inning, the Boomers then got three runs because of poor play by the Miners.

After that, the quality of the fielding — but not always the hitting — improved somewhat. Both teams managed some well-executed double plays, and most of the outfielders caught the pop flies they needed to, with only one more run until the eighth inning, which began 4-2, with the Boomers leading. Around the 6th inning, it began to drizzle.

The weather had been a worry all evening, since heavy rains had fallen that day, only clearing up about two hours before the first pitch, when it was still cloudy. I didn’t want the game to be called because of rain, not because missing a few innings would have been that bad. Mainly I didn’t want to miss the fireworks after the game.

The prospect of rain might have depressed attendance that evening. I don’t know how many seats usually sell at a Friday Boomers game, but last Friday the stands were less than full, with large swatches of seats empty. As the drizzle fell, more people left. We stuck it out. We being Yuriko and I, along with Lilly and three of her friends (Ann declined to go).

I don’t remember whether the announcer was such a minimalist last time around. All this announcer could be bothered to do was tell us the name of the batter up and natter sometimes about some promotion or other at the ballpark. I don’t mind that, but I would like to hear occasional clarifications of what was going on.

At one point, with two men on base — first and second — something happened, an umpire or two suddenly went into motion, there was noise from members of the crowd who might have understood what was going on, and then the two men advanced to second and third. It took me a while to figure out that a balk must have been called on pitcher. Maybe that’s me being dense about baseball, but I got the sense that a lot of other people were mystified as well. A short sentence from the announcer would have helped. Could be interpreting the game’s above his pay grade.

By the top of the 8th, when the drizzle petered out, all the Boomers had to do was keep the Miners at bay for two more innings. No such luck. In short order, bang, bang, the Miners got two runs to tie the game, 4-4. Actually, it wasn’t that short an inning. One batter in particular had a fondness for foul balls, and he hit one again and again and again and again.

I wasn’t looking forward to extra innings. Nine’s enough, especially when it might rain. Luckily, in the bottom of the 8th, the Boomers did pretty much the same thing as in the bottom of the 1st, bouncing back with well-placed hits, and scoring three runs. The Miners got a run in the top of the 9th, but couldn’t catch up, and that was that, 7-5. I don’t care one way or the other much about the Boomers, but oddly enough I was glad to see them win. That’s crowd psychology for you.

The postgame fireworks were dessert. Not the most spectacular ever, but a nice show, everything you want in hanabi (literally fire flowers in Japanese; always have liked that word). Even better, the show was close enough that you could faintly smell the gunpowder, adding an extra layer of enjoyment — and memory. I thought of the fireworks at Tivoli all those years ago, close enough so that the ash rained down on us (and while I didn’t mention it, you could smell the fireworks too).

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Highway & Lundy Lundgren

If you have time, US 20 is the best way between metro Chicago and Rockford. I-90 is faster but not as interesting, and a toll road besides. We went to Rockford on the Interstate for speed, but returned at our leisure on the US highway, which is sometimes four lanes, sometimes two, along that stretch.

US 20 is also known as the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Highway in Illinois, honoring Gen. Grant, who spent some time in western Illinois. In fact, the highway runs by his house in Galena. (US 20 itself runs cross-country, from Boston to Newport, Ore., or vice versa.)

The honorary designation has been in place since 1955, but most of the original signs were lost or fell apart. In 2007, the Illinois DOT started replacing them with brown-lettered signs that include a portrait of Grant. The route passes very close to where I live in the northwest suburbs, and I remember starting to see the signs appear nearly 10 years ago. I thought the designation was new as well, but now I know better.

One of the places on US 20 between Rockford and the northwestern suburbs is Marengo, a burg of about 7,500 in McHenry County. Oddly, it seems to be named after the battle of that name, which did so much to solidify Napoleon’s top-dog status, at least until Waterloo. Maybe some of the town founders included Bonapartist sympathizers, but well after the fact, since it was established in the 1840s.

For years, I’ve been driving by a sign that points to a historical marker just off US 20 in Marengo. High time I took a look, I thought this time. The marker is a few blocks north of US 20 on N. East St. This is what I saw.

Lundy Lundgren, Marengo, ILCarl Leonard Lundgren (1880-1934) hailed from Marengo, and behind the sign is the very field where he perfected his pitching skills, at least according to the sign. As a young man, Lundy Lundgren pitched for the Cubs from 1902 to ’09, and in fact pitched for the team during its most recent appearances in the World Series — 1907 and ’08.

He’s buried in the Marengo City Cemetery across the street from the plaque.

Marengo City Cemetery April 2016I took a look at the place from the street, but didn’t venture in. Most of it’s modern-looking, or at least 20th century, but there’s a small section whose stones look very old, older even than Lundgren’s, wherever it is. That bears further investigation someday.

GTT Spring ’16 Leftovers

A good Easter to all. I’ll post again on Easter Monday.

Not long after posting about the moon tower at 41st and Speedway on Monday, I happened across this vintage image of that tower. The handwriting on the photo asserts that it was the first of the Austin moonlight towers.

Tom and I had occasion to visit a trendy, non-chain coffee house in Austin. Tom said it was trendy, anyway. I noticed the quiet. Everyone was focused on a laptop or hand-held device. No one was talking, even though the joint was full. That’s not an exaggeration.

Did Samuel Pepys and John Dryden keep to themselves at the coffee houses they frequented? Did Washington, Jefferson, or Hamilton stay mum at Merchants Coffee House in Philadelphia? Didn’t the beats yak it up at Greenwich Village coffee houses? There ought to be talk at a coffee house, regardless of how advanced communication tech becomes.

As long as I’m in a judgmental mood, the fellow in the seat next to me on my return flight from Texas was using his iPad during most of the trip to watch golf. The very picture of a Millennial, with the full beard and flannel shirt, he sat there and watched people play golf. Playing golf is one thing, but what’s interesting about watching people play golf on an itty-bitty screen for two hours? My judgmental mood recedes with a shrug; it takes all kinds.

On a hill off US 281 not far from Johnson City, Texas, is the Arc de Texas.
Arc de TexasThe structure offers lodging — with a patio and pool in back — and a room to taste local wines, as well as Hill Country views from the roof, available to any passerby during normal business hours.
Arc de Texas viewArc de Texas is part of a larger entity called Lighthouse Hill Ranch, whose acreage offers a number of posh places to stay for the night.

Walking along Main Street in Fredericksburg near the former Nimitz Hotel, you’ll find Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) in bronze. You have to look on YouTube to find the “Chester Nimitz Oriental Garden Waltz” by the Austin Lounge Lizards.

Adm. Nimitz bronze, Fredericksburg TexasIn the George H.W. Bush gallery of the National Museum of Pacific War, you’ll find a painting of a less-expected figure from the history of naval conflict, though completely fitting, in one of the rooms about the buildup to the war: Marshal-Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō (1848-1934).
Marshal-Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō painting National Museum of the Pacific WarAs noted before, Texas is important in marketing goods in Texas. Need more evidence?
Texas eggsThese eggs were obtained at a San Antonio HEB grocery store.

At Least I Won a Coffee Cup

By mid-February, looking out at scenes like this is pretty tiresome. But there it is.
Feb 15, 2016Saturday was bitterly cold, even for February, which nixed any notion I had of going to Chinatown to watch the Chinese New Year’s parade. I’ve never been to one of those, so I toyed with the idea. But not when temps are single-digit Fahrenheit.

Sunday, snow. Monday, gloom. But at least we have the option of warm beverages in well-wrought ceramic cups, such as these.

cupsThe black one with the Sam Hurt illustration of a prehistoric creature and his cup — “Early Breakfast” — was a thoughtful Christmas present this year from my nephew Dees and his girlfriend Eden.

The blue one — “Take Time for Fun” — I picked up at a park district facility last week. It was a prize.

A week earlier, two days before the Super Bowl, we’d visited the same facility, and I noticed a contest in progress. Guess the final score of the Big Game and get three months added to your membership. Write your guess down on a slip of paper with your name and address, and put it in a big box (refreshingly low tech, that).

So I guessed Denver 24, Charlotte 17. I was vaguely aware that Charlotte was the favorite, but I still wanted Denver to win. Not because I cared anything about the game, but so I could complete a slide show like this the next week, after having predicted that Denver would win.

As for the numbers themselves, I pulled them out of the air, though I made them football-plausible. 24 = three touchdowns + extra points + one field goal, while 17 = two touchdowns + extra points + one field goal.

I proceeded not to watch the Super Bowl or any of its ridiculously expensive commercials. On Monday, a woman from the park district called to tell me I’d won a coffee cup. Everyone who guessed 24 as the score for Denver got one, it seems — eight or 10 people. Two people, she said, had gotten both scores right and won the membership extension.

One thing people say at this point is that “I’ve never won anything,” but it isn’t so for me. Among other things, in grade school I guessed the number of jelly beans in a jar and won the beans — I picked my house address as the number — and once I was a member of a trivia contest team at a corporate meeting, and won some movie tickets, though that was partly because of my knowledge of obscure facts, not just blind luck.